We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Legal reform

Former attorney general raises fears over Shatter’s legal reform

Dermot Gleeson has said he shares the concerns that have been raised by barristers and solicitors – including fears over independence and increased legal costs.

A FORMER ATTORNEY general has raised concerns over proposed reforms to the legal profession – which it’s been suggested could compromise independence and result in some increases to legal costs.

Dermot Gleeson, who was Attorney General in John Bruton’s ‘Rainbow Coalition’ government between 1994 and 1997 and is now one of Ireland’s top barristers, told he was worried by aspects of the reforms.

While Bar Council member David Barniville has warned that the Bill as it stands would “fundamentally change the legal profession, in a way that will fundamentally damage people’s access to justice.”

The Legal Services Regulation Bill, which will be debated by in the Dáil today, proposes a new regulatory authority to oversee the profession. But its proposed structure has caused controversy, with barristers arguing that it would give the Government undue political influence over legal practice.

“We fully accept that there is a need for independent regulation,” Barniville told “But the bill provides for the Government to appoint members of the regulatory authority, with no basis for where these people are to come from or what qualifications they should have.”

He said such influence would affect Ireland’s image internationally.

Barniville also said that the reforms – which were agreed in principle as part of the EU/IMF/ECB bailout, partly with the aim of cutting legal expenses – could result in increased costs to clients.

Increased costs

“You’ve up to 43 appointed members, plus their staff, who are going to have to be paid, pensioned and accommodated,” he said, adding that this would mean increased professional fees for lawyers. “It’s hard to see how that cost can avoid being passed on to clients.”

The Bar Council has proposed an ‘oversight’ rather than a direct form of regulation, which it says would involve a much smaller staff and lower overheads.

Gleeson said he was troubled by the proposed measures. “I share the concerns that have been expressed by the leaderships of both the solicitors and barristers profession on this bill,” he said.

The Department of Justice declined to comment. However, speaking recently Minister Shatter said there was “no reason for concern” over the bill and rejected suggestions of undue Government influence.

“The legislation sets out quite clearly that the authority is independent of the minister,” he said.

More: Shatter says there’s ‘no reason for concern’ over legal reforms>

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.